Paris is one of my all time favorite places, and the cuisine is no small part of that. It may be my French blood, but the city had me at baguette (et croissant, et cafe, et vin, etc). A fresh espresso and a pain au chocolat from a small Parisian bistro was by far the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had. I generally try to stick to healthier fare in the mornings, larabars or oatmeal or fruit. But sometimes, when the mood strikes, nothing will satisfy like a croissant. A real croissant. Not from Tim Hortons, NOT from a grocery store. A real, fresh croissant has the ability to transport you to Montmartre, at least for a moment. It should be buttery, and soft, and flakey. You should not need to put butter or jam or topping of any kind on a real croissant, although I know some people insist chocolate or cheese improve the taste. If you’ve never had a real croissant, go to a French bakery or café that makes their own and try one. Now. I’ll wait.
Or you could go the insane route, and try to make your own…
Sitting in a forest in the middle of Alberta, I couldn’t be farther from France. Geographically or mentally. There is a serious lack of French, Fashion, and gourmet Food. The differences are stark. Instead of the Seine, we have this freezing babbling brook running through our camp. Instead of Cannes, we watch downloaded episodes of Community on our laptops, and instead of well-groomed pets, we have mice, wild quail and grizzly bears. To say it is a world apart would be a gross understatement.
Things That Are Going Well
We’ve moved from BC to Alberta, and had a successful, safe journey. We drove through the ice fields in Jasper, which was a really beautiful experience.
Things That Are Not Going Well
We’ve moved from BC to Alberta. Enough Said.
This week I did something stupid.
I made 150 fresh Croissants from scratch for people who would probably have been content with store-bought croissants.
Or even a frozen Pillsbury situation.
There is just something magical about taking a few simple ingredients and turning them into a delicate treat. It may be lengthy or complicated, but the end result is unparalleled. Pastries are the epitome of a long and arduous process, and for me, croissants are kind of the Holy Grail. Now for those of you who live in an urban area and don’t love formidable baking projects, you could probably just go buy a killer croissant from a bakery. I am living in a secluded forest, was having a nostalgic Paris moment, and I decided to run with it. These particular pastries take a few days of focus to complete, and a lot of precision, neither of which are my strong suit. I like to think of myself as more of a bohemian artist type, a free spirit. Also known as messy and absent minded. But somehow the promise of a fresh croissant pushes away all these qualms every time I embark on this journey.
Croissant Tips and Tricks
1. My number one tip when it comes to croissants is to use proper ingredients. Fresh, good quality flour. Either real butter or Earth Balance vegan butter for a dairy free option. Fresh, active yeast. Old or stale ingredients will result in lacklustre pastries.
2. Go slowly. When you rush the dough tends to tear, or butter oozes out. It may be tedious, but be cautious, it’s worth it. Wait the proper amount of time for the butters and doughs to chill also. It needs that time to rise properly.
3. Make sure things are at the proper temperature. If your butter is too cold or too warm, it will drastically affect the croissants.
4. Watch the baking croissants very closely. After a few days of work, a tray of burnt crescents is enough to make one very unhappy. Don’t let them burn.
5. Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s easy to dress these up. Add small semi-sweet chocolate chunks for pain au chocolate, or cover with cheese. And if you just want to slather your croissant with Nutella, that’s fine. I won’t tell.
There are many recipes online for croissants, but I’ll give you my favourite one, this really walks you through all the steps. As usual, they turned out great and a few of the planters raved about these, really seeming to appreciate the artistry. The other fifty or so planters probably wouldn’t have noticed if it had been muffins from a store-bought mix instead. But we all suffer for our art. And this week, my art was imagining I was in France.
Until next time,
Kristy in the Kitchen (In The Forest)
Kristy Lapointe has spent the last few months chronicling her summer as a Treeplanting cook for SDTC, and accruing a wicked Zen Garden on Plants Vs. Zombies. She also acts, writes, sings, and has various other special skills according to her resume. You can follow her on twitter @kristylapointe, and enjoy the blog she co-writes at adeleandkristy.tumblr.com